Front runner’s Donald Trump mixed it up but picked his fights and Ben Carson stayed away from fights and likely did not get hurt. Both men did enough to keep their voter bases happy and advance them along at the top of the group of candidates for now.
Rubio had a good night in large part because not answering the questions and using stump speech talking points to advance idea’s. His adroit handling of Senator Rand Paul’s critique of his military spending plans on Tuesday, plus frequent applause lines, Rubio remains the top establishment candidate and the favorite to be standing at least for now when and if Trump and Carson stumbles.
Cruz has been masterful at putting himself in a position to challenge Rubio as the outsider candidate. The Texas senator spoke for more than 13 and a half minutes, more than four minutes longer than Carson, according to Politico’s estimates. He also played to the audience best, with 15 recorded laugh or applause lines, according to an analysis of a Federal News Service rush transcript conducted by Bloomberg Politics. He was right with Trump on immigration and he showed just how hard it can be to name government agencies when, just like Rick Perry four years ago in a famously misbegotten moment in a GOP debate, he messed up the list of departments he would close as president, But that seemed to be the only time he made a mistake all night long.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got what he needed out of the debate. He was animated, was able to use his policy wonk persona to get out many of his issue talking points and he was able to live to fight another day.
Two of the other stars of the evening were Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and businesswoman Carly Fiorina who both had their moments. Paul sounded like the guy we expected at the start of this presidential contest, and he stood out during two moments. First came his foreign-policy debate with Rubio, and his latter he was quick to remind Trump that China isn’t a part of the TPP agreement.
Meanwhile, Fiorina remains a good performer at these debates, and probably has been able to use them to at least put her in veepstakes consideration for next spring or summer.
The biggest news from last night is that a showdown between Cruz and Marco is coming as the duo will no doubt be in the third and fourth spots respectively come this weekend’s polling.
There was Cruz’s reference to sugar subsidies (which are important to Florida and its big political donors). “You know, I mention that the 25 programs that I put today, that I would eliminate them. Among them are corporate welfare, like sugar subsidies,” Cruz said. “Let’s take that as an example. Sugar subsidies. Sugar farmers farm under roughly 0.2% of the farmland in America, and yet they give 40% of the lobbying money. That sort of corporate welfare is why we’re bankrupting our kids, and grandkids. I would end those subsidies to pay for defending this nation.” When you combine that with Cruz’s statement against illegal immigration, you see how Cruz is angling himself for a future showdown with Rubio.